Even Face couldn't save Battlestar GalacticaI have always been a fan of science fiction in literature and in cinema. This may be partially my nerd genes talking but to generalize all science fiction as ray-gun toting Flash Gordon pirates-in-space is short sighted. The genre and its sub-genres have produced a multitude of unqualified works of art ranging from "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "Blade Runner" in the realm of cinema to "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" in the realm of literature. Somehow all of this artistry going on in science fiction does not make the leap to television successfully. That's not to say that Television has ever been the gold standard of quality entertainment, but it does produce gripping and meaningful shows from time to time. Those shows are just never science fiction shows. Never.
I can already hear ten thousand asthmatic cries of disbelief rising in the peanut gallery. Still your hands before you type out a hotly-worded e-mail that will no doubt set my eyes ablaze, let me explain to you why every science fiction show I can think of is horrible. To keep things honest I will address this issue chronologically. I have omitted shows that predate the original Star Trek series because, let's face the facts; I don't think any of you out there are going to try to tell me that "The Zap Chinley Hyper Police Hour" was good.
Star Trek: The Original Series
Set phasers to "tragedy".Story: The future, where man boldly explores a space populated by other men who sometimes are different colors or wear fanciful clothing. On particularly rare occasions they look like apes or mobsters. Famously, nearly every episode featured Kirk romancing anything with potentially compatible sex organs and then treating us to brief sequences of revolting kissing with a sweat-soaked Kirk in a uniform torn while wrestling an android. When he wasn't busy wiping out the galaxy with a plague of STDs Kirk was usually on the bridge of his retarded looking spaceship jumping around as the camera tilted to give the impression of phaser hits. Ironically, the shallow and unrealistic background of the Federation in the original series only got even less believable in future installments of the Star Trek franchise.
Special Effects: The special effects in Star Trek consisted primarily of film effects like "make something glow red" and "make something disappear". It probably had relatively decent special effects for when it came out, but the fact is even back then TV effects paled when compared to movie effects.
Cast: The cast of the original Star Trek show was horrible. William Shatner mugged and exaggerated every single line like he was play acting a scene in which he wrestles a space bear. Despite the intentions of Roddenberry he exuded about as much sex appeal as a rotten pile of meat being picked over by raccoons. Nimoy was his straight man to the point of being robotic and no matter how many eyebrows he arched outside of a Star Trek set, he had doomed himself to a life of wearing invisible Spock ears. Finally the supporting cast was as one dimensional as it was unappealing, with fat ham Scotty and the always grim doctor McCoy playing second fiddle to Nubian princess Ohura and her mask composed of a cake of eyeshadow.
Shit Factor: Star Trek rules the roost for having spawned no less than four more series (not counting the animated series) and about fifty motion pictures, most of which are every bit as bad as the TV show.
Dr. WhoTrust men when I tell you that this is an incredibly good set by Dr. Who standards.Story: Essentially the longest running TV show in the history of the galaxy, Dr. Who is painfully terrible. The story really isn't what kills it; it's about a time traveler who moves around space and time with a few sidekicks in his time machine. He is beholden to a powerful organization called "The Time Lords" but often runs afoul of them thanks to his go-getter attitude. Where Dr. Who fails horribly is in the specifics and in the execution, particularly the special effects. Dr. Who's time machine is a British telephone booth on the outside and blinking spaceship on the inside. Some might think this is clever, but I tend to think they made this decision so they never had to have a decent set throughout the history of the show. It allowed them to place a telephone booth in a bog in England and pretend it was the planet Oxogogii 5. Dr. Who also had some of the most horribly realized villains like the rolling robotic Daleks that couldn't defeat a baby if it was at the top of a staircase and the Cybermen that were basically people in masks and silver shirts.
Special Effects: Embarrassing. When Dr. Who centered on mundane plots like conflicts with the British military it became dull. When it centered on more cosmic stories like battles against the Cybermen or other villains it tended to be hilariously awful. I once saw an episode where the villains had futuristic guns that not only did not have an associated visual effect, but had no sound effect. They didn't even say "bang", they just pointed their guns and people shouted and toppled over. You would think after being on TV for over 25 years Dr. Who's special effects would get continuously better. THINK AGAIN! Decades later they were still using the EXACT same costumes and effects they used in the mid sixties.
Cast: The quality of the cast varied widely since even the main character's actor was replaced some seven times throughout the run of the show. Widely considered the favorite "Doctor", Tom Baker was admittedly a decent actor and a good choice for the character. Despite this the supporting cast was almost uniformly terrible and wooden and even the best of actors would have understandable difficulty being serious when facing down a filing cabinet with a gun that shoots fog.
Shit Factor: A lot of people let the horrible quality of this show slide by because it is seemingly self-effacing at times. Fuck that, if they can spit out nearly 700 episodes and never once actually entertain me then they aren't doing anything right.
Space 1999Set moon course for...shit.Story: Space 1999 has one of the most idiotic premises of any TV show ever made. There is a moon base called Moonbase Alpha and everything is fine and dandy. Then one day a giant pile of nuclear waste decides to explode, blowing the moon to pieces and turning the hunk of rock the base is on into a randomly traveling space ship. Great, we don't even get to seek out new life and new civilizations, we just boldly float where no man has randomly drifted before.
Special Effects: Space 1999 had better special effects, and particularly sets, than Star Trek had. That is to say that the sets did not consist of spray painted cardboard and randomly blinking kitchen appliances. They were still nothing to write home about and the costumes made many of the characters look like fruit flavored marshmallow treats.
Cast: Good actor Martin Landau had the hideous misfortune to be cast in the lead role of Commander Koenig, but even he fell prey to the curse of TV Science Fiction. The curse is to ridiculously overact because you have to play up the drama since the special effects are so horrible. The supporting cast was mediocre and forgettable and made even more so because the costumes on the show made it impossible to take any of them seriously.
Shit Factor: Very few people even know this show existed, and that's probably just as well.
Story: Sam Beckett is being sent through time for one reason or another and the machine controlling his travel malfunctions completely - for about 100 episodes. Instead of simply depositing Beckett in the middle of a mountain or something it makes him sort of "possess" the body of various people throughout different decades of recent history. He is assisted by a holographic wise-cracking Dean Stockwell and has to solve a gosh-darn crisis to correct the time line before he is randomly transported again. The show barely even qualifies as science fiction since the only things that really made it sci-fi were the jumps at the beginning and the end and Dean Stockwell's character. Each episode was essentially a moral problem or mystery that had to be solved in an all too touchy-feely sort of way before Sam could teleport again and shovel through someone else's crap. 90% of the episodes were boring or trite, about 2 % were actually good, and the other 8% were in the last season when they introduced all this stupid shit like evil Soviet time travelers and the like.
Special Effects: The special effects in Quantum leap were minimal, consisting of a few relatively well done film effects. Where they really pussied out on the show is with almost never having Sam teleport anywhere interesting. He never went to another country (except for Vietnam), never went back to the Stone Age to solve a dinosaur's moral problem, never teleported into Hitler and had to win World War II. It was for the most part home-spun melodrama with no place for splashy special effects.
Cast: Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell both fill their roles pretty well, but the unnecessary drama with Stockwell's character and any episode where Sam jumped into a woman made the show painful to watch at times. If anything the cast tended to be the strong point of Quantum Leap, as they usually got competent supporting actors.
Shit Factor: It is not even science fiction. The creators of Quantum Leap just wanted an excuse to have drama vignettes throughout history and managed to string it together by having a time travel theme thrown in. Interesting way to do a drama variety hour? Maybe, but not science fiction.
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Story: Of all the shows I have reviewed here this is the only one I watched with any regularity, and even that I seriously regret. It has roughly the same premise as the original series but it takes place a little bit farther in the future and has better special effects. What it lacks is any of the machismo of the original show, as intellectual captain Picard prefers to win the day through negotiations or subterfuge instead of by stunning an entire planet with the ship's phasers or wrestling a guy in a Gumby mask.
Special Effects: Passable overall. The special effects on the show had their low and high points, with most of the worst coming early in the show's run. Particularly amusing are The Borg who for some mysterious reason are regarded by Star Trek fans as being incredibly cool. Here's a hint ladies; they're not. When you glue a bunch of rubber and a laser pointer to yourself you end up looking like an accident at the gun accessory factory.
Cast: The Cast of Star Trek runs the gamut from extremely good (Patrick Stewart), to average (Brent Spiner, Michael Dorn), to horrible (Jonathan Frakes, Wil Wheaton, Whoopi Goldberg?!?!?!). People give the dorks behind Star Trek a lot of shit for casting Wil Wheaton, but as bad as he was, nothing could trump the sheer stupidity of making Whoopi Goldberg a character. Seriously guys, what the fuck?
Shit Factor: The series had its ups and downs but every episode was dull, overly preachy, or unbelievable.
Babylon-5I see another civilization discovered styling gel.Story: A space station built by the humans in deep space serves as a sort of intergalactic melting pot and United Nations combined. When I first started watching it the main character was the grey-haired commander of the space station. When I saw it again a season or two later it was the guy from "Scarecrow and Mrs. King". I would place Bruce Boxleitner about two rungs below John Ritter in terms of acting ability so you can imagine the trepidation with which I re-approached the series. I was not let down by my keen instincts for shitty science fiction. In the place of Star Trek's endless negotiations were frequent crappy CGI space battles and unnecessarily complex plot lines that required you to know the entire history of a sub-faction of some alien species with trees growing out of their face. It was the ultimate shallow science fiction nerd's jack off festival, obsessed with irrelevant and annoying details and approaching ridiculous aliens with reverence and seriousness.
Special Effects: I'll concede that the CGI, as crappy as it looked, at least introduced a sense of movement and scale into the space sequences that Star Trek had always lacked. The majority of the sets either looked like a party being thrown inside of a subway tunnel or the sort of one-dimensional back drops you are probably used to seeing in video briefings from Command and Conquer. The aliens were sometimes well done like the Vorlon and that lizard guy, and other times completely idiotic like that guy with the fan of hair on his head.
Cast: Unbelievably horrid. Possibly in the running for worst cast of any show ever along with "The Emeril Show". From the drawling Count Dracula with the fan on his head to the smooth-talking new age Mimbari, every cast member was jaw-droppingly awful. If you've got Walter "Wessels" Koenig as a serious villain then you need to look at hiring a new casting director. And you want to talk about melodramatic? Scenery got chewed like there was a Boxleitner termite infestation. Every fucking episode I've seen had at least one moment where the actors practically attacked the sets with giant forks and started ramming cardboard ducts down their throat while shouting lines.
Shit Factor: Xtreme! We're already seeing it reprised repeatedly in the form of stand alone miniseries and I think it's only a matter of time before the mouth-breathing nerdfans get a movie or another series.
Star Trek: Deep Space NineReset phasers for the much more commonly used "sex" setting.Story: Space's first black captain finally came to the airwaves with Deep Space 9's Captain Sisko. Instead of singing about thongs and dump trucks, deep-talking Avery Brooks managed to lend a sense of gravity to an otherwise inauspicious first season of the show. Suspiciously similar to Babylon-5 in basic concept, Deep Space Nine chose to center on less massive galactic war and more on regional politics. It also cast aside a lot of the annoying namby-pamby attitudes of "Next Generation" to be replaced with dorky humor from alien casino operator Quark. Somehow the show always seemed slightly sinister to me, perhaps because of the uncharacteristically dark sets and gloomy interiors of the station. Despite any positives the show still failed miserably to entertain and still fell back on the same idiotic preaching of "Next Generation" albeit in more blood-soaked surroundings.
Special Effects: A lot of people jumped ship from liking Star Trek to liking Babylon-5, at least in part because of the latter's dynamic and frequent space combat. Despite the slow-moving exteriors of Deep Space Nine I have a feeling its more austere special effects will stand the test of time slightly better. Not that it really matters, neither was revolutionary, and more importantly neither was a good show.
Cast: In addition to Avery "Hawk" Brooks, the cast featured veteran actor Colm Meaney, and the first woman on a Star Trek show I've ever found attractive; Terry Farrel. Overall the supporting cast was decent, with a few notable exceptions in the form of any character with giant ears and a shrill voice. I would probably rate this cast higher than even Next Generation if it weren't for the fact that the show was just plain boring. Yeah, thanks for the deep life-lesson of "be generous" that I learned fifty times back when I watched Next Generation.
Shit Factor: Many people point to Deep Space Nine as the beginning of the decline of the Star Trek franchise. This begs the question; "how can a franchise decline from absolutely horrible?"
Star Trek: VoyagerNaaaaaaaaaaaaaaooooo! Now Tuvok's never going to get home!Story: Mrs. Columbo is the captain of the space ship Voyager on its maiden voyage when it's suddenly sucked through a wormhole or something and spit out billions of light years away. The rest of the series seemed to be its attempt to travel back home with a number of wacky encounters thrown in. I had, by this point, lost any interest in watching any science fiction TV show. The few episodes I saw seemed to revolve around how smart Kate Columbo or a particular other cast member was. Then they tried to inject sex appeal into the show by adding the Borg woman who for some reason vamped around every episode in camel toetastic body suits. THE FUTURE!
Special Effects: Decent but extremely generic.
Cast: Kate Mulgrew is a fairly decent actress but her school marm demeanor on this show made me want to punch her through the screen. This cast was also, essentially, a list of human minorities. A Native American in the year 3,000? Somehow I don't think so. A black Spock only, amazingly, even more wooden acting? Fantastic!
Shit Factor: The first Star Trek show to actually be worse than the original.
Star Trek: EnterpriseI see someone's nursing a tapeworm.Story: The plot of this series centers on Captain Archer (Scott Bakula) being abducted from his spaceship by evil aliens every episode. Occasionally the hot Spock girl will do something hot and logical. I'm glad to see in the future we've advanced to the point that we no longer operate military vessels as such and instead treat them like throwaway sets for laughably shallow after school specials. Group hug guys, we negotiated the release of our Captain for the fifth time this season! It's also neat to see that the first ever deep space vessel has spacious quarters and room for a pet dog on board. Sometimes time travelers come onboard and do something incredibly gay, but believe me when I say you won't care.
Special Effects: They seem good now, but I promise you in five years they will fall into the same "decent but extremely generic" category as Voyager's.
Cast: Scott Bakula seems about as uncomfortable on a Star Trek show as he did in the movie "Necessary Roughness". Pretty much everyone else on the cast is forgettable or just there to be eye candy. And by the way, how many times is the engineer guy going to be able to get away with that whole "reroute the power" bullshit before the head writer of the show screams at people doing the scripts? Whenever it happens it'll be far too late to save this mess.
Shit Factor: The latest but probably not the last in the river of exrement that is the Star Trek franchise. Better than Voyager, but that's not much of an accomplishment.
Honorable MentionsNumber Six better watch out for those trash bags. The Prisoner - Doesn't really qualify as science fiction. More a surreal spy TV show with floating remote-controlled garbage bags and groovy music.
The Incredible Hulk - Mentioning gamma radiation occasionally and wearing kickin' rad purple jean shorts does not a science fiction make.
Max Headroom - Great pilot, some decent episodes, but too often turned into a showcase for synthetic huckster Headroom and ventured too far into the unbelievable to be effective scifi parody.
Firefly - I've heard people saying it's great. Even though I've never seen it I feel confident in saying that it is not great.
Cleopatra 2525 - Baywatch in space. Might have made a good porno series but fails utterly to entertain as cheesecake space pulp.
M.A.N.T.I.S. - A millionaire black guy in a wheel chair as a super hero?! SIGN ME UP.
War of the Worlds: The Resurrection - Initially showed promise as a sort of guerilla war against a slow re-invasion of earth by body-grabbing martians. Then after the first two seasons or so it went utterly batshit crazy, killed off all the characters, and turned the planet into some weird and horribly done post apocalyptic nightmare world.
Andromeda - Kevin Sorbo is a dumb fag and any cast he leads is sure to be filled with only the most pathetic drop-outs of high school drama club.
Battlestar Galactica - Hey, Star Trek was sort of a success, let's rip it off and throw in some Star Wars while we're at it. The only redeeming thing in the series was that Face from the A-Team was one of the main characters. Face was my least favorite member of the A-Team.
Automan - TRON called, they want their everything back.Part three in this update's "sexy ladies of horrible scifi TV" series.
Farscape - I can't decide if this show is a droll comedy, a children's muppet show, or a parody of Buck Rogers. Whatever it is every single time I've started watching an episode I've changed channels two minutes into the first conversation about some personal issues from five episodes back.
Lexx - Cleopatra 2525 with an incredibly attractive lead and oddball comedy. Nope, still not working for me.
Red Dwarf - This show has a huge following. I have no fucking idea why, it's totally unwatchable.
Stargate SG-1 - Richard Dean Anderson can't fix alternate realities with gum and duct tape, it takes guns and a giant bald black guy who acts like a magical zombie. Steer clear if you value your time, I'm fairly certain this show is written by some sort of software algorithm.
Sliders - The fat kid from "Stand By Me" is back and he brought the fat guy from Indiana Jones and a couple other miscreants that should probably be forcibly barred from the Screen Actor's Guild. Absolute shit.
The X-Files - Not science fiction. Not mystery/cop show. Not really sure what it is, other than total crap.
Even though I am certain I have left out a number of shows, I think I have provided sufficient scientific evidence to have science fiction completely banned from television. Stop wasting our time you dullards.
Peter Pan's Back, Yo
Hey folks, Taylor "Slowbro" Bell here with an all-new ROM pit review! I reviewed a horrible NES game called Hook a while ago and I didn't learn my lesson from that, so I decided to dive into another shitty Peter Pan game.
Since I was no longer a Peter Pan rookie, I assumed the boss of the game would be Hook, but that turned out to be a wretched lie. Instead the villain appears to be a giant wrinkly blueberry with spaghetti draped across it, and a face that looks like Abobo from Double Dragon had a stroke. This mysterious Blueberry Pirate also has a nice big cap'n hat with a crossbones symbol, although the bones look like they were taken from a guy with a bad case of rickets. The plot really starts to thicken when the blueberry guy's floating head informs Peter Pan's floating head that he is going to "destroy the world you hold dear." Peter calmly replies "It's a duel to the death for Neverland." Of course if he had stayed in THIS world instead of Neverland, he would have known about a much more efficient disposal method for giant blueberries. I think it involves Oompa Loompas.
Read the full review or I'll destroy the world you hold dear! Or maybe I'll just hit it with my car and then speed away without leaving my insurance information.
I have raised over $300 participating in quilting bees for the American Quilting Bee Society so I think I deserve at least seven minutes of your time.
Ernest Cline, writer of Ready Player One, shares his newest poem.
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